Bieber Ishak teaches high school at Manchester Regional High School in New Jersey and is teaching Arabic for the first time at his school this year. Mr. Ishak has also completed the STARTALK summer workshop with Global Language Project in NYC.
The focus of this intensive Teaching Language as a Foreign Language (TAFL) workshop at the Concordia Language Village was educational pedagogy, assessment and immersion- based teaching of the Arabic language. The residential nature of the workshop allowed us the opportunity to gel together beyond the classroom; we were able to share our ideas, observations, personal experiences, and instructional methodologies in teaching the Arabic language.
The course’s emphasis on high-quality standards-based planning helped solidify my understanding of research-based best practices in assessment and instruction and I learned how to utilize them to engage students in high levels of learning. The classroom discussions, the assigned readings, class presentations, and field visitations to the Concordia Language Villages helped improve my understanding of the current best practices in second language acquisition and instruction and allowed me to put theory into practice.
In the classroom, Professor Salah Ayari taught us how to design high-quality IPA units using culturally and developmentally appropriate themes and topics along with meaningful activities and assessments. Dr. Ayari continuously reminded us that meaningful context is the best way to teach language learners and that using authentic texts ensures that cultures remains embedded throughout instruction. Following our group project presentations, we received valuable feedback and constructive criticism from Prof. Ayari regarding the thematic units and he provided meaningful guidance on my progress/work.
Our multiple visits to the Concordia Language Villages were particularly helpful in identifying various effective teaching strategies. For example, I noticed the teachers throughout the Concordia Languages Villages placed more emphasis on meaningful, comprehensible input and functionality rather than grammatical accuracy. An atmosphere of low anxiety and low pressure prevailed throughout the lessons, and the teachers were very gentle in their approach, especially when correcting the students.
My group conducted a lesson demonstration at al-Waha village on the linguistic varieties of the Arabic language, mainly the Levantine, Egyptian, Maghribi and Gulf dialects as well as Modern Standard Arabic. Our demo lesson allowed us to apply our newly- gained experiences in the daily lectures and also gave us plenty of food for thought.
As a teacher of the Arabic language and with a background in Special Education, I plan to incorporate cultural preferences while also accommodating cognitive needs and diverse learning styles into classroom instruction. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the workshop, it developed my ability to apply theory to practice and allowed me to synthesize fundamental knowledge and skills. The course also provided me with tools and confidence to be a successful Arabic language teacher, and I look forward to putting into practice all that I have learned.